Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Planning Commission to Consider Affordable Housing Request

20. April 2009 • Chuck Warpehoski
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Avalon Housing along with Damian Farrell Design Group, Three Oaks Group, and Midwestern Consulting, LLC is proposing an affordable housing project they are calling Near North

This project comes before the City Planning Commission on Tuesday, April 21, at 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber, Second Floor of City Hall, with the Near North PUD Site Plan is expected to come up around 8 p.m.

The North Central Property Owners Association has opposed the plan, and the Planning Department has recommended against the planned unit development

That’s what they think. What do you think?

  1. I hear the concern the neighbors have about size, but I have to say I’m a pretty big supporter of affordable housing and Avalon is one of the best there is at providing it.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Apr. 20 '09 - 07:58PM    #
  2. I live two blocks from this project, and I think it is a great use of that space. It is big, but the density is appropriate for what will always be a very busy corridor unappealing to single-family homeowners.

    We need projects like this, and I can’t think of a better location for one; close to downtown and transit without really affecting the character of an established neighborhood, no matter what the neighbors who don’t want this in their backyard say about it. It’s a risk you take when your home backs up against a major access road.

       —eli    Apr. 20 '09 - 09:22PM    #
  3. I think this is an important step for Ann Arbor to take. There will be more low income housing in a convenient section of town that could do with a bit of revitalization. I’m also a big fan of any LEED buildings!

       —Mollie    Apr. 21 '09 - 12:51AM    #
  4. This kind of housing is important and desperately needed in AA. But that doesn’t mean that design or the impact on the neighborhood should go unconsidered. And, in fact, that’s what’s happening hear. As currently conceived, this building as all the makings of another Miller Manor. A giant block that sets the new folks apart from the neighbors and gives them no sense of ownership or pride in their new home. All this makes for problems. Finally, Avalon does do great work, but nearly all of it has been with small infill housing units that blend in with the neighborhood. Exactly, in fact, the type of units the developer plans to destroy to build this new building that breaks basically every zoning rule and guideline in the master plan. So, yes, please, more low income housing. Lets just do it wisely for once.

    Aconsideration for design or the neighb

       —David    May. 12 '09 - 06:11PM    #
  5. Avalon manages the Carrot Way Apartments in A2 and that is a large, all affordable housing, complex. They do a fine job there as well as all their other properties.

    Folks, this site is on Main St. It is on the edge of a neighborhood but it’s on Main. St. on the US 23 Business Route. This is a good place for a new building.

    The people who live behind it are the principle opposition and they live in big houses that don’t look like anything else in the neighborhood.

    Their houses were built after the single family homes were torn down in what used to be an African American neighborhood. Now they are protesting the removal of some broken down single family homes.

    Ann Arbor needs to decide if they are going to approve affordable housing or not. There is nothing wrong with this building or location.

       —Dusty Lake    May. 12 '09 - 06:47PM    #
  6. I agree with you Dusty. Avalon is an outstanding group and this project should be approved immediately. While affordable apartments are a good step, the long term goal should be affordable housing that can be owned by families and not just rented.

    It’s funny how some people in this town can flaunt zoning laws but if you are a family looking for an affordable place to live, there are a Kafka like maze of roadblocks in the way of making it happen.

       —Alan Goldsmith    May. 12 '09 - 07:20PM    #
  7. “The people who live behind it are the principle opposition and they live in big houses that don’t look like anything else in the neighborhood.” And the primary support are people who are supporters of Avalon who can justify placing this anywhere without thought because the goal of low income housing is lofty & makes them feel righteous. Supporters of this project might take issue with that characterization, but it is no more inflammatory or judgemental than the characterization of the oppostion. Opponents DO seek common ground with the developers. We DO want to see affordable housing go forward. This project as proposed will create problems and damage. Visit and read all of the information there. Mr. Goldsmith – this project does ZERO for homeless families – they will not be allowed to live there.

       —margaret    May. 12 '09 - 10:51PM    #
  8. Margaret I am pretty sure I said this: “While affordable apartments are a good step, the long term goal should be affordable housing that can be owned by families and not just rented.”

    I didn’t mention anything about the homeless, but I did mention some people in town flaunt zoning laws but are ignored by the city while projects dealing with affordable housing are looked at with a bit more…closely. And I don’t need to support this project to feel lofty and righteous. Trust me.

    So what suggestion and locations do YOU have for affordable housing? I’d love to hear.

       —Alan Goldsmith    May. 12 '09 - 11:28PM    #
  9. I checked out the webpage and see lots of white faces in the banner photo. I’ve had some African-American friends who lived on Summit Street and am surprised by the lack of people of color in the photo. On the surface this looks like an exclusionary group.

    If the Dems on city council vote down affordable housing once again, then they don’t deserve to be holding elective office.

       —Alan Goldsmith    May. 12 '09 - 11:40PM    #
  10. My impression after watching the presentation is that this project is not supposed to serve the homeless. It is supposed to be affordable housing for low income and young professionals who make under $30K a year.

    I also want this proposal to pass. The project is on a main road where the placement of such a building is not only permissible but expected by many. I could understand the uproar if this building was being proposed for the middle of a neighborhood block, but this is a main driving road into the town.

    This project represents true affordable housing and should be supported by the democrats. This is one of the dems mantras! I understand that there might need to be some minor design changes, however some form of an affordable housing project should and needs to go there. It is close to downtown and can be built there for a reasonable cost.

    The Dems in this town need to start walking the walk while talking the talk.

       —Diane    May. 13 '09 - 12:35AM    #
  11. Eli, it is easy to publicly dismiss opposition to this project as a simple NIMBY response, especially if you have not familiarized yourself with all of the reasons this site is less desirable for a project of this size than many others that are currently zoned for it (inlcuding one owned by Avalon, but not used by them), are cheaper, and are better located. Urban neighborhoods sustain themselves via a very fragile balance. Size does matter. It is not the density – it is the square footage. Many families DO live on Main St. I urge you to consider the details and history of this project and perhaps get to know your neighbors a bit better before dissing them publicly. Our NCPOA meetings are open to everyone!!

       —Margaret    May. 13 '09 - 01:37AM    #
  12. David – Well for starters, the neighbors have welcomed the developers to build 24 supportive housing units (less than 1/3 median income) in our backyards. How many such units are in your backyard? How many already on your street? Do you want me to list for you the property in the actual downtown that is currently zoned for this use, available, and cheaper per square foot? There are several, including a property currently owned by Avalon, which is not even being used by them right now.

    This land cost is higher than much of the land downtown – but the developers won’t tell you that. They prefer to piggyback on Avalon’s reputation and the inaccurate perception that this spot is more affordable (it is not) and that the neighbors are self-interested Nimbys (we are not).

    Because a private developer is trying to save his shirt, and even make a profit selling overpriced land to Avalon (with financing from state, city, and federal funding), the size of this building is way larger than this spit of land can support. There are 8-9 lots and only 4-5 of them are buildable (flood plain) – yet they propose a 52,0000 sf building here and will not budge. That is a huge building. If you know the neighborhood, then you’ve seen the 201 Depot St. office building. That building is only 20,000 SF.

    4 years ago, a proposed high-income project of the same size site was rejected – it got more scrutiny than this project, not less. In fact, it is likely that the affordability factor is the only reason this project has not been rejected by the planning commission already.

    The photo on our blog was taken on a community gardening day & was grabbed for the blog because it was handy & it had the Wheeler park sign in it. We did not pose to show what our community does or doesn’t look like. We are as diverse as ever, if not more. Why do you feel so comfortable deriding us for the color of our skin or implying that we wish to give it a white face? This is a unique neighborhood and it really hurts to see us characterized negatively for coming to its defense against a private developer who could care less about it – he showed that 4 years ago when he tried to put a similar building there but for a different income level.

    I would urge you to keep up with our blog as we continue to post new information. I can counter you point for point all day long. We can honestly disagree and leave it at that. My hope is only that you keep an open mind, and refrain from derision and stereotyping of people you don’t know.

       —Margaret    May. 13 '09 - 02:15AM    #
  13. It’s sad to see people who’ve chosen to live in the city’s most ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood now being stereotyped as “exclusionary.”

    Alan, I’m glad you have friends on Summit. Did you ask them what they think of the project? Sarah Howard’s been on NCPOA’s area committee more or less forever (I know she was already a member when Letty Wickliffe recruited me in 1981). Like the rest of us, she opposed the developers’ previous high-end condo project because it was too big. She opposes this new version for the same reason.

    Walk around this block and you’ll see that just about every household has put up one of our signs—whether the residents are black, white, Asian, or labradoodle!

       —John Hilton    May. 13 '09 - 04:31PM    #
  14. “On the surface this looks like an exclusionary group.”

    From the photo it appeared that way. Glad to hear it’s a wide range of people of all cultures, races and economic backgrounds. But the photo, especially with the Wheeler Park banner and the fact this housing will benefit people making under $30K seemed like a slap in the face to the memory of Mayor Wheeler.

    Thanks for the clarification. But if this project is rejected, along with ALL the other attempts at affordable housing, Ann Arbor should stop pretending this is a priority and just admit the city Democrats are ineffective and all their talk about affordable housing is just a phony shell game.

       —Alan Goldsmith    May. 13 '09 - 04:49PM    #
  15. I thought this note on the NCPOA was interesting:

    It’s important to note, however, Near North is not being sold as a way to upgrade workforce housing—it’s being sold as a way to increase it. And to build those 24 one-bedroom units, the developers plan to demolish or convert to non-residential use eight houses with a total of 26 bedrooms. The bottom line: a net loss of two bedrooms. The new units would also be cost much more than existing rental housing on this block.

       —Matt Hampel    May. 13 '09 - 05:30PM    #
  16. David wrote, “Finally, Avalon does do great work, but nearly all of it has been with small infill housing units that blend in with the neighborhood.”

    From what I hear, as Avalon has grown, that model has become much more difficult to sustain. Doing maintenance on a bunch of rehabbed buildings across the city isn’t easy, and it isn’t cheap. I think that’s part of why Avalon is moving toward denser, newer, easier-to-maintain facilities.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    May. 13 '09 - 05:56PM    #
  17. So if you want affordable housing, forget having your own one bedroom place, find a house and share it with others?

       —Alan Goldsmith    May. 13 '09 - 06:32PM    #
  18. Sorry, I don’t understand why doing maintenance on rehabbed buildings is supposedly “not cheap”. We live in an 1853 single-family house, and there is hardly any routine maintenance at all.

       —David Cahill    May. 13 '09 - 07:53PM    #
  19. If you have many small properties sprinkled all over the city, time and energy is consumed just in travel between the sites. Imagine a seasonal task like gutter cleaning on 50 different houses. Ladders are loaded and unloaded at each site. It may take a week to service all the buildings for this routine task for the benefit of 150 residents. Now imagine administering social services…

       —CDBF    May. 14 '09 - 07:01AM    #
  20. Has anyone seen any estimates from Avalon on maintenance/social services costs for small properties vs. large properties?

       —David Cahill    May. 14 '09 - 04:17PM    #
  21. A “sign war” has broken out in this neighborhood – a war in which the developer has already sustained a Purple Heart.

    I just walked the neighborhood: Main from Beakes to Summit, Summit from Main to Fourth Ave., Fourth Ave. from Summit to Beakes, and Beakes from Fourth Ave. to Main.

    There was one property with a “Yes” sign on it (excluding properties controlled by the developer). There were 28 properties with “No” signs on them. There were 37 properties without signs.

    Also, earlier in the week, there were “Yes” signs placed by the developer on the Ann Arbor Community Center property, across from the proposed project. It is a truth universally acknowledged that in Ann Arbor it is illegal to put signs on public property. Someone complained to the City, and those signs are now gone.

    The developer wants the City to do it a favor, and approve a Planned Unit Development for the project. It does seem that the developer should at least be a good citizen.

    In the immortal words of one county commissioner: “If you want to develop, follow the law.”

       —David Cahill    May. 16 '09 - 08:44PM    #
  22. The property appears to be owned by the Community Center,not the city.See below from Ann Arbor property search:

    Main > Assessing > Property and Land Search > Results > Details

    General Property Information Printer friendly version
    Parcel: 09-90-00-075-608 Data Current As Of: 0:24 AM 5/16/2009

    Property Address [collapse] 625 N MAIN ST Ann Arbor, MI 48104 Owner Information [collapse] ANN ARBOR COMMUNITY CENTER Unit: 09 625 N MAIN ST Ann Arbor, MI 48104
       —FYI    May. 17 '09 - 09:35PM    #
  23. The fact remains that a complaint was made to the City, and the City caused the signs to be removed.

    The neighbors feel strongly that they are victims of development. Only strong feelings would cause people to print up signs.

       —David Cahill    May. 18 '09 - 01:13AM    #
  24. “Victims of development”??? Oh, please.

    Many of us in the rest of the city feel strongly that we are victims of the NIMBY provincialists.

    They have sabotaged every effort for affordable housing and other development projects near the downtown area and they need to be stopped.

       —Diane    May. 18 '09 - 03:40AM    #
  25. Matt post15: I think two different development projects are being mixed together in the reporting. I thought there were only two houses that will be replcced for the Avalon Near North project. The city place project on fifth avenue dealt with the eight houses.

       —Diane    May. 18 '09 - 03:41AM    #
  26. hmmmm if the property is owned by the community center, that would make it privately owned- not publicly owned, therefore the developer is not breaking the law as you cited in your quote. If this is true, then who is breaking the law?

       —FYI    May. 18 '09 - 03:52AM    #
  27. I thought that the community center actually came out publicly in favor of the Avalon project?

    Didn’t someone from the AACC speak at the planning commission meeting in favor of the project?

       —Diane    May. 18 '09 - 04:02AM    #
  28. Yes, the Community Center definitely supports the project.

       —FYI    May. 18 '09 - 04:21AM    #
  29. OK, I am a big supporter of affordable housing. I even think the location is good. But this project is horrible. Way, way, way too big. No way for any kind of integration with the neighbors. Have you seen the sketches? Awful. AND… all units are one-bedroom. No room for families at ALL. AND… get this… they will take over the corner lot where Summit Party Store is and, ready for this?…. put a LIQUOR STORE on the first floor of the development. Great, wonderful place for a liquor store. It’s no secret that many people that end up needing housing assistance struggle with addiction. So it’s totally catering to single people, no families, no neighborhood integration. And it’s enormous. The only way to visualize the scale is to look at the drawings. And it sits RIGHT on the street, no set back. Breaks every zoning law on the books in terms of set-back, scale, density. Yuck.

       —Julie    May. 18 '09 - 04:28AM    #
  30. The liquor store has been there forever and is NOT going away – the project calls for turning it into more of a market – I drive this route every day – how nice would that be! People who need housing assistance and drinking problems do NOT always go hand in hand – statistics prove it. The project is mostly affordable housing with some supportive units who will get support from Avalon. One bedroom units are needed!!! Main Street is a business route flanked by a neighborhood – it “belongs” to the entire community. The Community Center is across the street – how perfect! The architecture is interesting and cool!

       —FYI    May. 18 '09 - 04:48AM    #
  31. I liked the building design from what I saw presented at the planning commission. However I realize that if you are against this site being developed no design will probably be to your liking.

    As for the group that this housing is supposed to service, my understanding is that it is supposed to be for people earning under $30k/year; not necessarily for families or the homeless. This group is supposed to include young professionals at entry level jobs (probably mostly at the UofM) and workers of downtown establishments. Not everyone wants to rent a house with 5 other people and live amongst the UofM undergrads. One bedrooms are definitely needed.

       —Diane    May. 18 '09 - 05:32AM    #
  32. When people think about affordable housing they like to imagine it is for “families.”

    There is a need for affordable housing for families but they are also the most popular group to take care and they rightly get the most resources.

    But there is really a need for one bedrooms for the singles who populate shelters. With a little help in the way of supportive services they can get their lives together. This building would have something like 14 units devoted to supportive housing. Most of those folk are in the “very low income” slice of the population. This housing is needed!

    The one bedrooms offered for those making under $30 are perfect for couples with service jobs, people who might be serving us downtown. These units are also exactly what is needed.

    What difference would it make if the store is on the corner or in the building?

    They do plan on making it more of a market that sells food including some fresh vegetables, sandwiches, publications, etc., and also beer and wine VS a party store that sells some food.

    It could be the new model for neighborhood stores, something like a Jefferson Market with value added.

       —David Lewis    May. 18 '09 - 06:15AM    #
  33. Well, I really do hope that you all are right, and your rosy vision of this project comes true, should it be approved. But I’m highly doubtful. I see another Miller Manor here. It just seems very un-inspired. I agree with a previous poster who commented about the idea that individual entrances and smaller scale promotes stewardship and integration. I see none of that here.

    Oh, and for the record, I don’t live super close to this site, so the NIMBY argument does not apply. And as I said, I like the idea of affordable housing on that location, but the scale and design of this one is bad.

       —Julie    May. 18 '09 - 04:56PM    #
  34. I heard that they are working on the scale – if so, it sounds like a win – win.

       —FYI    May. 18 '09 - 05:09PM    #
  35. Diane, your record on development shows that you don’t understand victimization. People near offensive developments feel that their territory has been invaded. This feeling is partly biological. You may always want to foment development, but the people nearby are often true victims.

       —David Cahill    May. 18 '09 - 05:32PM    #
  36. David- Victim is not the correct word. Just because you don’t like a development or something in general, that does not mean it harms you personally. I am finding fault with your choice of word. The word is inflammatory.

    If you can say that an existence of a building harms them personally or that their quality of life suffers because of this building, then I can also use the same reasoning.

    I can say that the anti-development group’s actions harms the mission and goals of the city and the quality of life for all residents suffers because of the absence of large-scale affordable housing which is protested at every attempt. Therefore we, the residents of the city of Ann Arbor are victims of the anti-development group’s actions. They are not heroes in our eyes.

       —Diane    May. 18 '09 - 05:46PM    #
  37. And David, I need to add that this is not one isolated event where some resident’s concerns are ignored. Every development project, whether it is a parking structure, condos, affordable housing, student housing etc., is campaigned against. It is attempt by a specific activist group (the anti-development folks) to impose their view throughout the city by using the residents near each project and instilling fear in them.

    So I don’t think of them as victims, but rather they (the residents in the neighborhood) are being used as pawns by the anti-development group.

       —Diane    May. 18 '09 - 06:18PM    #
  38. Diane, the neighbors feel victimized. Feelings are real.

    I am intrigued by your concept that a specific activist group is “using the residents near each project and instilling fear in them.”

    What makes you think that such an activist group exists? What’s your evidence for your assertion that the Near North neighbors (and other folks opposing projects) had fear instilled in them by this group?

       —David Cahill    May. 18 '09 - 08:53PM    #
  39. David – what you don’t get is that the feelings are real on my side also. Many of us feel that some of these people have and are going too far when they oppose EVERYTHING.

    The same people show up to oppose EVERY single development project that comes up; they can’t possibly live next to every single development project that is proposed. They rile up the neighbors and I believe give out misinformation that the development will ruin their neighborhood. Would the neighbors feel so victimized if there was not so much negative hype?

    Just suppose that a potential new development may actually benefit a neighborhood by increasing the livability of the area and therefore increasing property values. (I am not saying that any neighborhood needs this but I am throwing it out there as a possibility) Would all these concerned residents still be anti-development if the project was spun positively with a financial gain or other benefit for them instead of spun negatively? This is not true in every case, but it sure is not false in every case either.

    As I have posted before, when one is anti-everything you lose credibility with some of us because people like me cannot see where their true intentions lie.

    By specific activist group I am grouping together all the anti-development folks who show up against EVERY new development, whether it is a parking structure, student housing, affordable housing etc. Although there may be some people in the neighborhoods who may have originally been against some of these projects, I feel this “anti-development” group hypes up all the rhetoric and they inflame issues unnecessarily. In my opinion it does more damage to the city than good.

    After a long drawn out battle we sometimes end up with a worse project than the one that was originally proposed and campaigned against, such as the 5th street project.

       —Diane    May. 18 '09 - 11:15PM    #
  40. Which people rile up the neighbors, Diane? Which group? You say the residents are being used as pawns. Which residents?

    Glittering generalities won’t do here. Please be specific.

       —David Cahill    May. 19 '09 - 12:46AM    #
  41. Again, Main Street is a business route flanked by a neighborhood – it “belongs” to the entire community.

       —FYI    May. 19 '09 - 04:13AM    #
  42. Hi Diane,

    Please watch the public hearing on this project, which is available on CTN. You’ll see more that more than 20 people spoke in opposition to Near North. To my knowledge, only three of us EVER appeared at Planning Commission before. It’s a bit unfair to dismiss us as the “same people” that “oppose EVERY single development project that comes up.”

    In fact, North Central has an impeccable record as YIMBY neighborhood. Please see the postings “North Central through the Years” and “Yes In My Back Yard” on our website.

    I’ve been on NCPOA’s area committee for twenty-nine years, and this is the first project we’ve EVER opposed. To understand why, you might start with the posting on the “Terraces on Main”—or just skip to “Supersize Me.”

       —John Hilton    May. 22 '09 - 03:32PM    #
  43. Diane,
    I am not fond that you refer to me/us (tax-paying, property owners) as “anti-development group’s”. I do not consider myself any member of any anti-development group; I merely want to retain the quality of life that I have as someone who does not want to have to sell my home and leave Ann Arbor because the top of my street was involved in this project.

    I am for affordable housing, but not of this huge magnitude in the middle of a family-oriented neighborhood. Renters do nothing to contribute over time to the area. They are in and out, utilizing housing for UoM or for hospital jobs, etc. While this is great for people needing affordable housing, this is not great news for those of us who are trying to fix up the homes that were converted to apartments, and refurbish them back to single-family homes. We are trying to continue the creation of a revived neighborhood here in this part of town.

    I like the fact that downtown is minutes away, and not right in my front or backyard. I want to keep it that way. After this development, there is no stopping what will happen over the next decade with regards to over-developing this part of town so that before I know it, there are multiple parking garages, retail mega-space and so forth right near me, and I will essentially live right downtown- not what I or my spouse want.

    Ultimately, yes, I wish this project had never gotten vetoed from the original CONDO project that it was. I want buyers and tax payers moving in, not more renters moving in and out of Ann Arbor, and certainly not in my neighborhood. We are surrounded by too many rental units as it is, driving down single-family home property values. The landlords don’t take care of all these rental properties because they just want to turn a buck, but unfortunately that’s an entire other issue, not for this discussion forum.

    So, in summary, and to clear things up, I am a human being, a resident of Ann Arbor, and we own property here. We are not part of some anti-development group trying to rain on Ann Arbor’s parade. I am all for the RIGHT development, for the right reasons, in the right place and at the right time.

    Developers cannot hide behind the front of non-profits and other helpful organizations because they want to make themselves look better and save their butts and their $$$. Also, I think the City Council has finally wised up to the fact that developers will try to skirt every loop hole everywhere, as they did across town on an architectural technicality to get their project passed through and approved. Oh well.

       —Andrea    May. 22 '09 - 04:31PM    #
  44. #43. “…and certainly not in my neighborhood.”

    Sounds like a contradiction to me – OUCH!!!


       —FYI    May. 22 '09 - 05:54PM    #
  45. Why are you so fixated on the fact that Three Oaks and Avalon have teamed up and are trying to do something good for the community – you act as if that is some shameful thing to do. – What is the big deal – it’s a WIN-WIN!

       —FYI    May. 22 '09 - 06:04PM    #
  46. Andrea,

    So if I’m a landlord or a renter, I don’t have to pay taxes? Wow, sign me up! I could use the extra cash.

       —jcp2    May. 22 '09 - 06:06PM    #
  47. Andrea post #43- You are the person who I feel is being manipulated by others who I am calling “anti-development”.

    As expected, some who live near a proposed project will be upset by the project. That is natural and expected.

    What I object to are the people who do not live in your neighborhood, who appear at city council and actively campaign against development THROUGHOUT the city, who do NOT live near all the proposed sites. They inflame the situation and cause people like you to feel as if you’re the victim. So, yes there may be many who live in the neighborhood who are now speaking up, but are they there now because of all the hype created by the non-residents of the neighborhood? Would they be as upset without others driving the fury?

    Andrea, do you actually believe that this is the first project that has been campaigned against in the city of Ann Arbor? I understand you are viewing this from a narrow viewpoint (the main street project only) but I am writing about a bigger problem in the city. You said yourself that you would have been happier with the original condo project, however what you don’t realize is that the uproar from the “never build anything (anti-development)” group helped kill that project; it actually hurt you and your neighborhood (using your preference as logic).

    You say that you would have preferred the original condo project, but now you are getting a project that is much less desirable. Well people should think about this when they are campaigning against a proposed development. If you constantly say no to good projects that are not perfect, you don’t end up with perfection you many times end up with something that is not as good as the original plan but is legal. (eg. City place on 5th street-I think the original plan with the underground parking was a much better plan).

    If a developer owns the land, they are going to build something on the site. The only recourse for those who want “nothing” built is to buy back the land from the developers.

       —Diane    May. 22 '09 - 06:37PM    #
  48. I see Diane belongs to the “keep your mouth shut or we’ll jam an even worse project into your neighborhood” faction in the city. Most people in Ann Arbor are intelligent enough to make up their minds based on the facts. Insulting them by implying that they are gullible sheep being stirred up by outside agitators isn’t going to win them to your point of view. Your claim that it’s better to settle than to push for a better project because the end result could be something worse isn’t born out by history. That may have happened once or twice. But bad projects almost always result from neighbors settling. JulieW has had numerous posts in the past when a “good project” was jammed in at 828 Greene and the impact it had on her neighborhood.

       —John Q.    May. 22 '09 - 09:19PM    #
  49. I would be sympathetic to Andrea’s concerns for scale, except that it sounds like she’s actually concerned about tenancy – “I want buyers and tax payers moving in, not more renters moving in and out of Ann Arbor, and certainly not in my neighborhood.” (I’ll warn that the remainder of this post has almost nothing to do with the particular project in question.)

    As jcp2 notes, renters are, in fact, taxpayers – a substantial portion of their rent goes to property taxes. (In fact, “non-homestead” properties pay more in property taxes than owner-occupied homes, albeit not through local millages.)

    More importantly, though, is the continuation of the idea that renters are somehow subhuman – that real people and real families own their homes, and, furthermore, that those are stand-alone units. i.e. _“We are surrounded by too many rental units as it is, driving down single-family home property values.” – so, renters can’t live in single-family homes? Or, if a family rents their home, it can’t be a “home”?

    Renters do nothing to contribute over time to the area. Shwa?!? That’s funny – I used to be a renter. The time when I was a renter was the time when I decided that I liked the area enough to stay in it – to become a homeowner, get a job, pay those taxes, etc. (Entering hyberbole mode…) But now I find that I am not actually contributing anything to the area over this time, because I was once a renter. Guess I’ll quit my job, let my house foreclose, and go back to being the lazeabout renter that I will always be, because I was one, and that meant I am incapable of contributing over time. (Exit hyperbole.)

    This actually leads back to the thread on Young professionals: why we stay/leave . When somebody goes to school in Ann Arbor, do we want their recollection to be, “My time in Ann Arbor was spent in crowded dorms – why would I want to stick around?” or, “I loved my house and my neighborhood and downtown – I’ll look for a job here.” When somebody fresh out of grad school elsewhere moves to town for a job, they’re going to be a renter. Do we want their impression to me, “Ann Arbor is full of generic apartments near Briarwood – why would I want to lock myself into a mortgage here?”, or, “My apartment is in an awesome neighborhood – I think I’ll buy a house here / start my business here / raise my family here.”

    The “young professionals” and “millennials” we lament losing to other States and cities are the victims of our anti-renter sentiments – and if we think that demographic is important to our economic and cultural well-being, well, then we’re the victims of that attitude.

       —Murph    May. 23 '09 - 03:27AM    #
  50. Diane,
    Nobody coerced me. Nobody even talked to me about it. My mind was made up as soon as I saw the architect’s drawing and heard the details. Before that, I was OK with the idea. Now I think it’s horrible… and I made up my own mind.

       —Julie    May. 23 '09 - 04:41AM    #
  51. Language is very powerful and not all words have the same meanings.

    I used the words manipulate and hyped-up.

    manipulate means to influence

    hyped up means to publicize in an exaggerated or misleading manner.

    Now you are trying to turn my statement into coercion, which means to be forced. I never made such a claim. Go back and read my comments, I never said anything close to that.

    Julie, just because this may not apply directly to you, that does not mean it didn’t happen to others.

       —Diane    May. 23 '09 - 06:14AM    #
  52. On Saturday, June 13, starting at about 10:00 a.m., the Ann Arbor Democratic Party will have a program featuring this development. The meeting will be at the Ann Arbor Community Center, 625 N. Main, across the street from the project. The meeting agenda says:

    “Downtown development has been a focus of much concern and debate for several years as rezoning and new construction consumes Council hours and ignites neighborhood passions. A recent proposal to demolish several Main Street houses and replace them with an affordable housing complex is pitting community design interests against other social concerns. As Council wrangles with the issue, we invite you to meet and discuss the impacts and implications of the project with advocates from both sides.”

    The agenda notice is titled “Downtown Drama!”

    All Dems are invited – including paranoids from the Fourth Ward. See the Vast Anti-Development Conspiracy duke it out with the Pro-Development Sleazeballs!

       —David Cahill    Jun. 9 '09 - 05:21PM    #

    Interesting story in the A2 News this morning about how supportive the Democrat Party is of ‘affordable housing’. Or at least some members.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jun. 24 '09 - 05:27PM    #
  54. Alan, thanks for alerting me to this. More complex than just the concept of “affordable housing”. The party has almost nothing to do with it. I did a lengthy history on this issue.

    Are you aware that calling it the “Democrat Party” is a usage Republicans adopted in order to be deliberately offensive? Just a friendly reminder. Correct term is the Democratic Party.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 25 '09 - 06:49AM    #
  55. Good lord! That was a typo Vivienne!! Yikes. I’m a life-long Dem since my first vote for George McGoven…I AM aware of the offensive ‘spin’ by using this word…but maybe should proof my words before I hit SUBMIT. I’m going to hide in a corner now…

    But my point is/was, there are always these plans for ‘affordable housing’ that never seem to reach the finish line. This time, a county democrat who represents Ypsilanti and Superior townships is apparently being a roadblock and not sure how far up the list the other Democrats (the Mayor for one) see this an a defining core value of the party. Very little ever seems to be acomplished, and when it it, it’s just a token.

    Sizemore and the rightward swing of the out county board creeps me out and sending this link was an attempt to focus on that. I’m happy with Leah Gunn, my rep. But other county Dems who go with this flow shouldn’t expect my support in the future if the have plans to run for higher office.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jun. 25 '09 - 02:43PM    #
  56. Thank you, Alan, for being happy with me. I have been working on affordable housing issues for years and years, and recently ran across a piece of 1978 campaign lit from Al Wheeler, one of our former Democratic Mayors, in which he spent a lot of time on the issue of “decent, affordable housing”.

    There is a federal program called the “Neighborhood Stablization Program” which has allocated about $4M to Washtenaw County to purchase and rehab foreclosed properties, including single family homes and rental properties. Ironically, the three areas eligible (in addition to the City of Ann Arbor) for these funds include Ypsi City, Superior Twp. and Ypsi Twp. (from whence Mr. Sizemore hails). Eligibility is based on income levels in the census tracts. This is being administered by the City/County Community Development Dept., through the Urban County Executive Committee. I chair that Committee (although I do not have a vote – the people on it are Twp. Supervisors and Mayors or their designees), and we also allocate HOMES and CDBG monies from the feds. Ann Arbor will formally join on July 1, although they have been participating in these federal programs with us. We are now preparing an application for NSPII, which is a competitive grant process, and we hope that we will be able to get some more funds.

    It is very, very hard to get affordable housing in Ann Arbor. It is quite a NIMBY town. I have boasted that, within six blocks of my house, there are: a Dawn Farms facility, an Avalon apartment house, a Home of New Vision (for former female convicts), and a mental health group home. My property values have not dropped (until the latest debacle, caused by the greedy Wall St.bankers), and I use that as an example to the NIMBIES. I don’t know what to say about the remarks made by Commissioner Sizemore, except that two of these properties proposed for development are owned by the county. In addition, we received a letter from Chief Judge David Schwarz of the Circuit Court threatening to sue us if we used the courthouse property. The other county property is our parking lot, and it is used by Commissioners. My comrade in arms on this issue, for years and years, has been Jean Carlberg, and we both hope that someday before we pass on to the great political arena in the sky that we will have what we need to house folks.

    I do agree with Mayor Hieftje, however, that we ought to reserve that Fifth/William lot (the old Y) for development to add to the tax rolls. The previous project suggested for it ran out of financing.

    So, there you have it!

    Oh yes – the wonderous campaign of George McGovern – 1972 in Ann Arbor was a great time and Washtenaw County was one of only two counties in Michigan (and actually, much of the country) that voted for him – the other, of course, being Ingham. I was a ward chair back then, and we elected a Democratic majority of County Commissioners, in addition to our first Dem. State Rep. – Perry Bullard. Back then all our legislators were Republicans.

       —Leah Gunn    Jun. 25 '09 - 05:14PM    #
  57. I sent the link, not to address those three lots so much but as a reminder/indicator that there is usuall a reason ‘affordable housing’ (and I don’t mean low cost rental properties but affordable, and ownable). It’s a complex issue and I just want to make sure it isn’t left out of the discussion mix and promised but never worked on. Which seems to be the issue with some elected Democrats.

    I was living outside of Toledo and moved to A2 in ’73, but still remember the Toledo Blade endorcing McGovern, which was quite the radical move at the time and sitting in a diner at 2 am (?) listening to his acceptance speech at the Democratic Party convention. Probably the last candidate for President I voted for without reservation until Obama.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jun. 26 '09 - 02:20PM    #
  58. and the computer ate a line here. After usuall(y) “never happens”.

       —Alan Goldsmith    Jun. 26 '09 - 02:23PM    #
  59. Alan, as you indicate, the term “affordable housing” means different things to different people. To politicians it usually refers to subsidized housing for lower-income individuals and families. You mention “affordable and ownable” which says to me that you are thinking of middle-class (or what we might call Formerly Thought Of As Middle Class, given the economy) families. Affordability of housing within Ann Arbor is a complex of taxes, service fees, and property costs. That has been a concern of mine, that we don’t lose the diversity of this city because it becomes a place that only the wealthy (and the few who are able to obtain subsidized housing) can live. I think the label of NIMBY is unfair and insulting to most of our middle-class (or FTOAMC) homeowner families. In the 5th Ward, we probably have the highest density of subsidized and group housing in the city, along with the widest spectrum of income groups (excluding the highest) and the most diverse housing types. But many homeowners are stressed in their efforts to maintain a decent home environment because of the rising expenses of living in Ann Arbor.

    As Cmr. Gunn indicates, Ann Arbor, which was one of the first block grant (CDBG) cities in Michigan, has given up its status as an independent CDBG community to join the Urban County. According to the recent report I’ve linked to, that is about $2.2 million in CDBG funds for the county and $1.7 in HOME funds (a different but related program). A number of recipient agencies are listed in the report.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Jun. 26 '09 - 04:43PM    #
  60. One of the major uses for HOMES funds under the Urban County has been homeowner rehab – thus allowing low to moderate income familes to stay in their homes, and homebuyer assistance, so lower income people can purchase homes. Of course they must qualify, and the Washtenaw County MSU Extension Homebuyers Education program just won an award from MHSDA as the best in the state. So, it is not always lowest income.

    In addition, $4.1M in federal stimulus money has been granted to the ETCS (Employment Training and Community Services) Dept. of the county, which is directed by Trenda Rusher. This is for energy audits and weatherization to make homes more energy efficient. Employees of the County’s Building Services Dept., which is supposed to be self supporting, hve been challenged in recent years because of the lack of new construction – many of them have been retrained as energy auditors to help us with the weatherizion program. The Community Development staff is also using HOMES money to rehab these houses, in addition to the weatherization, when found to be necessary. The Urban County also works closely with Habitat for Humanity and Community Housing Alternatives to encourage home ownership. All of these programs are directed to low and moderate income populations.

    Therefore, it is not ALL lowest income, although that is where the greatest need is. People seeking emergency shelter often also need other services besides just housing, and that is what the Blueprint to End Homelessness is all about.

    I believe that we are doing our best when it comes to stretching and leveraging our thin resources, and I thank the Obama Administration for being aware of the problem and helping local governments to serve the residents.

       —Leah Gunn    Jun. 26 '09 - 05:13PM    #